Sometimes life makes the most sense when it seems to make none. Consider Columbia yoga instructor Nicki Anahata Musick, who decided to start a band when she broke her wrist.
“That actually was very perplexing to me,” she reflects during a spring interview with Free Times, seated on the floor in her Yoga and Wellness studio on Millwood Avenue. “It was almost like it was a catalyst, sort of a kick in the butt.”
But the timing was perfect. James Wallace, a stalwart local musician who had semi-retired to tend to family, was taking classes from her.
“You approached me after class one evening,” Wallace offers, sitting next to Musick, “and you were like, ‘You play music. Let’s put a band together.’”
As one might gather from her name, music is a big part of Musick’s practice. One of her major focuses is on the way sound can deepen the experience. She’s been exploring along these lines since the ’60s, lighting out to the West Coast for a while and living for a time in an ashram, but mostly residing in South Carolina. With Anahaat Planet, the group she and Wallace pulled together, she hopes to reach more people.
“The style of yoga that I aligned with has a very great emphasis on music and sound, ‘sacred sound’ as it’s called, and resonance and vibration,” Musick offers. “I was just very drawn to that because I’ve always been musical. I’ve been in a few bands over the years, a rock ‘n’ roll band and a couple of folk bands, a few duos, sang with many musicians around town.”
“But I kind of always wanted to be creative with ... yoga music, or meditation music,” she continues. “I had a desire, still have a desire, to breach the boundaries and bring that music to everybody, not just the spiritually minded people. To maybe make it so that it would be able to touch anybody and bring some upliftment and some peace and help people to be a little calmer.”
Teaming with Wallace proved apt for achieving these ends. Flush with experience playing stridently adventurous indie rock, most recently with The Unawares and Jackson Spells, he had tired of late nights playing in bars and the lifestyle that promotes. Grabbing keyboardist LG, another local rock vet who chose to go by an alias for the new project, and Jeanne Garane on mandolin and violin, Anahaat Planet embarked on a different path, playing at reasonable hours, often accompanying yoga sessions or call-and-response kirtan meditation.
But the music — captured on a three-song, self-titled EP released in March — has a broad appeal. With its wispy strums and airy vocal, “The Cage” recalls the Eastern-leaning work of George Harrison, but weird, futuristic keyboard flourishes and the richly reverberating depths of the production connect it equally to modern indie experiments from the likes of Panda Bear. The intricately dancing keyboards, acoustic guitar and violin of “Sat Siri Akai” land somewhere between flower child psych-folk and the more bracing complexity of Fleet Foxes. With its hypnotic, post-Beach Boys undulations, confidently ambling bass line and a more determined vocal performance from Musick, the closing “You Are” (the only song in English), plays like a lost B-side from Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.
For Musick, offering such far-flung accessibility is exactly the point.
“Everybody is going to resonate to what they resonate to,” she muses. “It’s generally going to be some kind of resonance that merges with a person’s own state of mind or emotional state.”
Wallace concurs. So long as a listener gets something positive from Anahaat Planet, he counts that as a win.
“It’s not as if I’m trying to proselytize or anything,” he says when asked if he’s trying to show other rockers that there’s another way. “But it’s kind of a thing where if we can bring people in because of what we have to offer, then we’ve succeeded. And if we can bring somebody to kundalini yoga, if we can bring somebody to Meher Baba’s teachings, if we can bring somebody to these ways of conceptualizing one’s self in the world, that offers many gifts and they see those benefits, we’ve succeeded completely.”
What: Anahaat Planet Music & Kirtan
Where: Masala on Main, 1604 Main St.
When: Saturday, Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m.
Price: Donations accepted
More: 803-799-6422, hotyogamasala.com/masala-on-main